By Elizabeth Whitman | Phoenix New Times
On its face, Arizona State Representative Mark Finchem’s bill to nudge federal lands into state management is not about transferring ownership.
Critics detect a ruse.
HB 2547, a Republican-backed measure that would create a new state agency to manage federal public lands, cleared the House last week along party lines. It now sits in the Senate, where it has been assigned to committee. It appears to avoid the contentious issue of land transfers, which has prompted governors and voters to rebuff similar, previous measures.
In 2012, not only did Arizonans roundly reject a ballot initiative to transfer ownership of federal public lands to the state, but then-Governor Jan Brewer also vetoed a bill with a similar aim. Three years later, Governor Doug Ducey vetoed bills for federal-land transfers, although he did sign one to create a committee to study the issue.
This year, Finchem’s resurrecting the land-transfer effort using a slightly different approach. This one purportedly aims for Arizona to manage — not own — federal lands that agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, and the National Parks Service currently oversee.